We couldn’t keep our eyes off of them. The Olympics. There is something about the nature of the games that lures us. Maybe it’s learning about the training that each athlete has undergone, or the pressure that waits at the end of every high dive, floor routine, or goal. Whatever it is, to some level, competition is hardwired in us.
Maybe too hardwired. And maybe it has seeped into the church.
Not that long ago, I had a conversation with a church leader over the phone and without her knowing, she talked about the competition between churches. Sure it might sound taboo, but it is a thought that crosses many leaders’ minds. We do VBS like this so that we attract more people. Our women’s team is hosting a big bash at this opportune time because the other church down the street is throwing a similar party. We give away mugs and water bottles because that church is giving away candy bars and free meals.
And round and round we go.
So, what can we, church, learn from the Olympics? It rests in the universal scoreboard, not in a sport, nor an individual. To be honest, it’s been easy to get caught up in the individual athletes. Who is doing what and how many medals Michael Phelps has. Or the lure of Simone’s smile and how we all feel like she might be our little kid sister. Or maybe it’s been David Boudia and how He taught us how to give God glory.
All of these are good and each person deserves to be celebrated. But that isn’t the ultimate reason for the Games.
From another angle, it’s also easy to get lost in the fall of some athletes. My husband and I sat glued to the television as we watched Ryan Lochte apologize about his bad behavior. He recognized that his poor choices ruined a lot of the Olympic celebrations. Instead of doting on the red, white and blue, it seemed that our national attention became focused on one intoxicated night, rather than years of training and superior performance. Such is the way with mankind.
And such is the way with church.
So often we can get caught up in what one church is doing. Look at their baptism count. What are they doing to get the people in their doors? More often than not, we are tallying up imaginary gold medals over churches and longing for the feeling of that ribbon hanging around our neck.
And isn’t it true that when one falls the whole arena is tainted? The Lochte story turned heads and has spurred many of our dinnertime conversations. What is true? Where are the lies? Will he apologize? This is what happens when one of our church leaders fall. One toxic decision taints the whole pool.
So how do we keep from fierce competition from within our own family or drowning in the wallows of mistakes? We keep our eyes on one thing:
A universal scoreboard.
What if we took all of our churches and decided that we all could fit into the scoreboard. What if we declared our differences, but remembered our sameness, and fought for lost souls everywhere? What if we celebrated churches and their baptism counts while reaching out hands to pull others up rather than pull families away?
I dare say our medal count would go up.
We will be different. Simone Biles, David Boudia, Aly Raisman, and Kerri Walsh all play different sports and yet they were aiming for one universal scoreboard: America.
We have a much higher commission. We have been asked to go and tell others about a God that so loved the world. Our mission is much more serious than losing sponsorships. Our passion is much deeper than a circle of gold. We are called to Christ-likeness. Our goal is to be soul-winners. And we each play an important role. Across churches. Across strategies. Across methods.
We are not in competition, dear church. There is much more at stake in caring for souls. Let’s aim for a universal scoreboard. And give God glory that we get to play in the Games at all.